This page will be for articles written by experianced members
that have been in the sport
and are quite happy to pass on there training ideas and techniques
What makes a herding dog ?
By Frances Smith
If you think that a dog only requires herding instinct to compete in herding trials, think again. Although instinct is essential, it only makes up a small part of the whole. The rest is training and obedience. This has been described as "Command over instinct" In other words, we start with the raw instinct , then control and modify this instinct with commands which often require the dog to work counter to what its instinct is actually telling it to do. For instance, a Border Collie's instinct is to gather the sheep and bring them to the handler. But in the higher classes the dog has to drive the stock directly away , or do a cross drive. So the dog has to be biddable enough to obey without question this is "Command over instinct"
Raw ability and training are not enough, it is "biddableness", the desire to willingly comply with anything the handler asks of it, which makes the dog into a herding dog.
So the recipe for a herding dog is instinct + training + obedience but there is a fourth ingredient which enhances these three. It is the "Alpha wolf effect"
If a dog regards its handler as its pack leader it will be eager and willing to obey every command. Otherwise it will ignore orders and play its own chasing games with the sheep.
Herding instinct is really modified hunting instinct as an example I will use some dogs which are not even of a herding breed. I know of two Jack Russell Terriers, three year old brothers which do everything together. They sleep together, eat from the same bowl and hunt together by excitedly chasing and yapping after rabbits. But when there ten year old father visits the farm this changes. He takes over their bed and food bowl. He is the "Alpha wolf" When they go hunting he stealthily approaches a patch of scrub while they silently and respectfully follow behind him. He then lies in wait, and without any visible signal, the younger dogs cast around, sheepdog style, and manoeuvre a rabbit right into his jaws. This is the "Alpha wolf effect" It competely changes their hunting tactics.
So the presence of a strong leader can turn a rowdy rabble into a disciplined hunting (or herding) team. Such dogs require much less training becaue they are so attentive and biddable to their handlers wishes.
DOES your dog regard you as its pack leader ?
or are you merely its pack mate with whom it plays chasey sheepy ?